Stop talking to someone as a punishment

Who I am
Louise Hay

“Managing silence is more difficult than dealing with speech,” said journalist and politician Georges Clemenceau. Without a doubt, silence can say a lot without saying anything, but we must be very careful when using it because, in the words of musician Miles Davis, “silence is the loudest noise”.

Many people use silence as a psychological weapon, as a tool to express their anger, their dissatisfaction or simply to punish others. In this way, when they get angry, they "punish" others by stopping talking to them. Is this a good strategy? What really hides behind this kind of silence?

Why do some people react to conflicts with silence?

In the first place, it is important to distinguish between the silence that arises from the desire not to discuss any more, because it has been understood that the conflict has reached a stalemate and there is no need to add fuel to the fire, and the silence that is used as a weapon to punish or chastise the other.

The person who resorts to silence as a punishment usually does so because they have no other psychological resources to deal with the situation. Silence is his answer for several reasons:

- He believes that his interlocutor does not listen to him, that he is not open to his point of view and uses silence to "force" the other to listen to him.

- He thinks that his interlocutor should apologize for his attitude or his words, and use silence as a warning.

- He thinks it is useless to talk about the subject because he will not be able to reach an agreement, so he uses silence to make the other surrender.

- He feels deeply offended, but does not want to acknowledge it and uses silence so that the other repents.

- He does not want to address a sensitive issue, so he accuses the other and punishes him with silence, to make him change the subject.

Whatever the reason, this use of silence aims to bend the other, it is a kind of punishment through which one blames the other person and puts the responsibility for the relationship in their hands. It's like saying “I won't say anything else, you see what you want to do, the ultimate responsibility is yours”.

This means that the person who is silent is not interested in resolving the conflict through dialogue, but simply wants the other person to accept their point of view.

The use of silence as a punishment involves a manipulative and aggressive attitude

Using silence as a psychological weapon to punish someone is a childish attitude that solves nothing, because even if it provides selfish gratification for those who apply it, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the interlocutor and also leaves marks in the relationship. In fact, little by little an emotional manipulation relationship is established in which the person is subdued using silence.

There is no doubt that silence can have multiple meanings, but using it as a punishment involves a passive-aggressive attitude. That is, stopping talking to a person is a veiled aggression. Indeed, in some cases this type of silence can leave deeper scars than direct verbal aggression, because silence is a void susceptible to any kind of interpretation.

We must remember that the emotional distance that silence imposes is not the best way to resolve conflicts and reduce distances. Understanding is achieved through dialogue, not through the use of a sharp silence that sharpens differences.

While it is true that in some cases silence can work and the other person apologizes and gives in, ultimately this tactic can only generate resentment and problems, since the conflict has not actually been resolved, but only covered up.

How does the person who suffers the strategy of "silence" feel?

Silence can be interpreted in many ways, but we usually interpret it in the worst possible way. A meta-analysis conducted at the University of Texas that included the results of 74 studies involving 14.000 people concluded that silence is usually very destructive in relationships and people interpret it as a lack of involvement of the couple. other and an attempt at emotional submission.

These psychologists have seen that the use of silence as a punishment is common in couples and is one of the factors leading to divorce, not only because these people feel less satisfied with the relationship, but also because they perceive their partner as more emotionally distant.

In fact, one of the problems is that those who suffer from silence feel increasingly frustrated by the lack of an answer and the involvement of the other, so the relationship will become more and more tense and there will be more conflicts.

The person who is the victim of silence will feel confused, frustrated and even guilty. She is also likely to feel lonely and misunderstood. Obviously, these feelings do not contribute to improving relationships and resolving conflicts, on the contrary, they create an ever wider gap.

The positive uses of silence

Sometimes it's best to keep quiet, such as:

- When we are too angry and realize that we might say things we would regret later.

- When our interlocutor is too excited and the discussion is degenerating.

- When the silence is used as a pause in the discussion for the other to reflect on his words.

The difference between these positive uses of silence and silence used as punishment is that they show respect for each other and are not meant to bend or hurt anyone.

In any case, it is important to think that silence is an empty dart that can acquire multiple meanings, so if someone is really important to us it is best to say assertively what we think and feel. Thus there will be no more room for misunderstandings.

Indeed, a study conducted at the University of Leuven found that silence does not help to make problems disappear or forget, on the contrary, it strengthens them. These psychologists have found that the best way to leave conflicts behind is to talk about them.


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